Alaska's Asia exports on the rise again

Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska's exports have recovered from the Asian financial crisis, but the state remains vulnerable to globalization, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott says.

Globalization is a buzzword that describes shrinking barriers among people, nations and economies. It has accelerated with advances in telecommunications and the widespread use of computers, officials said.

Alaska's economy suffered heavily as a result of the 1997 Asian financial turmoil and the fall of the Russian ruble in 1998, Talbott said in an appearance Tuesday at an Anchorage World Affairs Council luncheon.

The state's biggest trading partners are Japan and South Korea, with about 80 percent of its commodities sold to those countries.

Exports of seafood, oil and gas, wood products and minerals to Japan fell to $867 million in 1998. That compares to $1.3 billion the year before.

Shipments of oil, coal, seafood, fertilizer, wood products and minerals to Korea dipped from $479 million in 1997 to $315 million in 1998.

After the fall of the ruble in 1998, Alaska's exports to Russia fell from $21 million to $3 million last year.

But the state's exports have rebounded as the Asian economies have recovered.

The sale of Alaska commodities in Japan and Korea are returning as much or more money now than they did before the Asian crisis, Talbott said.

Alaska sold $1.3 billion worth of commodities to Japan last year and $487 million worth of goods to Korea.

''We had our highest exports ever to Korea last year,'' said Greg Wolf, director of the Alaska Division of International Trade, Marketing and Development.

Alaska always has been on the cutting edge of trade with Asia and has taken a leading role among other states in the move toward globalization, Talbott said.

Alaska was the first state to open foreign trade offices in Japan and Korea, in 1965 and 1985 respectively, said Wolf. Since then, many other states have followed.

The Asian recovery bodes well for Alaska along with events unfolding in China, Wolf said. Beijing is working toward membership in the World Trade Organization, which could mean lower tariffs and greater market access for Alaska products, he said.

''I'm optimistic about Alaska's export potential. China has a large and growing economy and population and they need the natural resources that Alaska has to offer,'' Wolf told the Anchorage Daily News.

Gov. Tony Knowles plans to lead a trade delegation to China in October.

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